The Mighty Men Who Were of Old

Once upon a time, giants roamed the earth.
That sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. Most Christians have never been taught that a similar story is told in the Book of Genesis, and in very similar language: “The Nephilim (or giants) were 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. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”
Pastors, priests, and Sunday school teachers tend to skip the first four verses of Genesis 6 and go right to the story of Noah because—well, the verses are weird. They contradict the scientific consensus. They’re hard to understand.
Please remember this: God didn’t inspire the prophets and apostles to write filler. Moses was not assigned a minimum word count. If it’s in the Bible, it’s relevant—and if it’s weird, it’s important.
The reason we’re writing this book is that it’s become clear to us that the episode described in Genesis 6:1–4, and expanded upon in the non-canonical Book of 1 Enoch, is far more important to human history and biblical theology than we realized.
We are Bible-believing, blood-bought Christians, so let’s put to bed right now any concerns you might have that this book is going off the theological rails to add something to the salvation story. If you don’t accept the evidence we’ll present here, that’s fine; as long as we agree that salvation comes only through grace by faith in Jesus Christ, we’re good. The purpose of this study is to show you how viciously and for how long the Fallen have been waging war against our Creator. Their ultimate objectives are control of God’s mount of assembly, Zion, and authority over your eternal soul.
So, what role did the giants play in the biblical narrative?
First, we need to establish that the children of human women to the “sons of God” were literally angel-human hybrids. This is consistent with similar stories from the ancient world of gods commingling with humans to produce demigods such as Gilgamesh, who claimed to be two-thirds god and one-third human, and Hercules, the son of Zeus by the mortal woman Alcmene.
Obviously, researchers can’t produce DNA from pre-Flood human remains that will support this theory. However, it’s worth noting that for all of the faith placed by science in Darwinian evolution, only two hundred specimens of “pre-human” fossils have ever been found. If humanity has been around for ten thousand years, where are all the skeletons? But we digress.
It’s important to note that the phrase translated “sons of God” in the Old Testament, Hebrew bǝnê hāʾĕlōhîm, always means supernatural beings—angels, if you like. It does not refer to human men.
Yes, there are references in the New Testament to “sons of God” that do mean humans, but those passages are translated from Greek into English, and the context is different. The arc of history is all about restoring humanity to the garden, like the prodigal son returning home and being restored to the family as a co-heir. Someday, we will once again be “sons (and daughters)” of God in the Old Testament sense. That’s why Jesus went to the cross.
At the risk of beating a horse that’s already on life support, let me repeat: “Sons of God” in Genesis 6:4 refers to spirit beings, supernatural entities who rebelled against the Father—fallen angels who spawned an evil race of giants mingling the bloodlines of angels with humans. The “sons of God” were not evil human rulers or men from the line of Cain, or any other naturalistic explanation that’s been put forward since Augustine decided he couldn’t believe it in the early fifth century AD. Casting the “sons of God” as evil human men simply ignores the linguistic and cultural foundation of the Book of Genesis. To interpret the Nephilim as fully human means mistranslating the Hebrew and ignoring the way the very same phrase was used by the cultures around ancient Israel that spoke and wrote similar languages.
Besides, the apostles believed it. And we dare say their theology teacher was better than ours.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2 Peter 2:4–10)
The only place in Scripture where we know of angels who sinned (Satan excluded) is Genesis 6. By connecting the rebellious angels to Sodom and Gomorrah, Peter made it clear that the sin of the angels was sexual—a point he reinforced in verse 10. Like the “angels who sinned,” the wicked would be kept under punishment until the Judgment—“especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority,” exactly the sin of the sons of God in Genesis 6.
The apostle Jude was even more explicit:
And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 6–7, emphasis added)
It could not be clearer: By connecting Genesis 6 to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jude made it clear that the sin of the angels was sexual. (It also indicates that the sin of Sodom wasn’t just homosexuality; it was the desire to cross the boundary between species. Physical relations between angel and human was just as “unnatural” as between human and animal.)
Interestingly, just a few verses later, Jude quotes the Book of 1 Enoch, which suggests that we might learn something from Enoch even though it’s not in the Bible.
When the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, “Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget children for ourselves.”…
These and all the others with them took for themselves wives from among them such as they chose. And they began to go in to them, and to defile themselves through them, and to teach them sorcery and charms, and to reveal to them the cutting of roots and plants. And they conceived from them and bore to them great giants. And the giants begot Nephilim, and to the Nephilim were born Elioud [“gods of glory”]. And they were growing in accordance with their greatness. They were devouring the labor of all the sons of men, and men were not able to supply them. And the giants began to kill men and to devour them. And they began to sin against the birds and beasts and creeping things and the fish, and to devour one another’s flesh. And they drank the blood.
Dr. Michael Heiser makes a convincing case in his book Reversing Hermon that a key aspect of the mission of Jesus was to reverse the evil of the Watchers. It’s obvious in 1 Enoch that the impact of the Watchers went well beyond producing monstrous hybrid offspring. Besides sorcery and potions, the fallen angels of the Hermon rebellion taught humanity the arts of divination, cosmetic enhancement, metalworking, fashioning weapons, making “hate-inducing charms,” and “the eternal mysteries that are in heaven,” which clearly were things man was not meant to know. In short, because of the forbidden knowledge passed from the Watchers to humans, the earth became filled with sex and violence.
For this, as Peter noted, God imprisoned the rebels in the abyss. While most English Bibles translate 2 Peter 2:4 as “cast them into hell,” the Greek word, tartaroō, literally means “thrust down to Tartarus.” That’s different from Hades, the word most commonly used to designate the underworld home of the evil dead. In Greek cosmology, Tartarus was as far below Hades as the earth is below heaven. It was a special prison reserved for supernatural threats to the divine order—basically, Hell for supernatural beings.
This is the only place in the New Testament where tartaroō is used, which means it’s important. It referred to a unique event, but one with which Peter’s readers were obviously familiar—the famous story of the Watchers who attempted to corrupt humanity physically and spiritually.

Scholar Amar Annus has shown that the name of the old gods of the Greeks, the Titans, was derived from the name of an ancient Amorite tribe, the Tidanu. The word behind the name Tidan (sometimes transliterated into English as “Ditanu”) is the Akkadian word ditânu, which means “bison,” or “bull” (and probably refers to the aurochs, an ancient species of very large wild cattle from which modern domesticated breeds descend). This is more evidence that the story of the Titans originated in Mesopotamia and not with Indo-Europeans.
That’s not all. Because Kronos, king of the Titans, and El, creator-god of the Canaanites, were identified as one and the same by the people of the ancient world, we can make a good case that the name Kronos probably had a Semitic origin, too:
The bovid sense of the form Ditanu/Didanu is particularly intriguing in view of other tauromorph elements in the tradition. Thus, the prominent Titan Kronos was later identified with El, who is given the epithet tr, “Bull”, in Ugaritic and biblical literature. Apart from this explicit allusion, we may well ask whether the name El, (Akkadian and Ugaritic ilu) does not already itself have a bovine sense. … Does it perhaps mean “Bull”, (perhaps more generically “male animal”), so that the epithetal title tr is in effect a redundant gloss on it? …
Furthermore, the name Kronos may well carry the same nuance, since it may be construed as referring to bovine horns (Akkadian, Ugaritic qarnu, Hebrew qeren), which feature prominently in divine iconography in the Near East. (Emphasis added)
It’s interesting enough to see the additional link between Kronos and El through the bull imagery of their names, but did you notice that there are references to “Bull El” in biblical literature?
In the book of Hosea, the prophet recalled the idolatry of Jeroboam, the man who led the rebellion against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam:
I have spurned your calf, O Samaria.
My anger burns against them.
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
For it is from Israel;
a craftsman made it;
it is not God.
The calf of Samaria
shall be broken to pieces. (Hosea 8:5–6, ESV; emphasis added)
The phrase, “For it is from Israel,” comes from the Masoretic Hebrew text, kî miyyiśrāʾēl, which literally means, “for from Israel.” That doesn’t make sense. But separating the characters differently yields kî mî šōr ʾēl, which changes verse 6 to this:
For who is Bull El?
a craftsman made it;
it is not God.
The calf of Samaria
shall be broken to pieces. (Hosea 8:6, ESV, modified; emphasis added)
That’s a huge difference! Jeroboam set up worship sites to rival the Temple for political reasons. If the northern tribes continued to travel to Jerusalem for the feasts, they might eventually switch their loyalty back to the House of David. Apparently, Jeroboam felt that the worship of El was close enough to do the trick. After all, hadn’t Yahweh revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai? Hence, the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.
Since El was Kronos, king of the Titans, then he was also Shemihazah, leader of the rebellious Watchers on Mount Hermon thousands of years earlier. Like the Titans of the Greeks, the Watchers had been confined to Tartarus (see 2 Peter 2:4; the word rendered “hell” in English bibles is the Greek word tartaroo), a place that was separate and distinct from Hades. By erecting the golden calves, Jeroboam drew the northern tribes back into the worship of a god who introduced the pre-Flood world to the occult knowledge that Babylon was so proud of preserving.
This crossed a big red line, and God made it clear that it was completely unacceptable. He directed the prophet Ahijah to give this message to Jeroboam:
You have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back, therefore behold, I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone. (1 Kings 14:9–10, ESV)
By reading “Bull El” in Hosea 8:6, instead of “Israel,” the verse becomes a polemic directed not just at the idols of Jeroboam, but against the creator-god of the Canaanites as well. Frankly, it fits the context of the passage better than the common English rendering. And this isn’t the only place in the Bible where that substitution may come closer to the Hebrew original.
The epithet has also been identified recently in a perceptive study of Deuteronomy 32:8 by Joosten, in which he proposed a similar consonantal regrouping in the expression bny yśrʾl (bĕnê yiśrāʾēl) to read (bĕnê šōr ʾēl). Since LXX (ἀγγέλων θεοῶ, some mss υἱων θεοῶ), and one Qumran text, 4QDeutj (lmspr bny ʾlhym), already read a divine reference here, rather than the “Israel” of MT, this proposal has much to commend it:
yaṣṣēb gĕbulōt ʿammîm he set up the boundaries of the nations
lĕmisparbĕnê šōr ʾēl in accordance with the number of the sons of Bull El. (Emphasis added)
As noted earlier, most English translations render Deuteronomy 32:8 “number of the sons of Israel.” A few, such as the ESV, follow the Septuagint (“angels of God” or “divine sons”) and the text of Deuteronomy found among the Dead Sea scrolls (“sons of Elohim”). What scholars Simon and Nicolas Wyatt propose is reading the Hebrew as “sons of Bull El” instead at the end of the verse. And to be honest, it fits.
That may sound like we’re playing fast and loose with the text. But note: In the Genesis 10 Table of Nations, there are seventy names, and in Canaanite religious texts, El had seventy sons.
Coincidence? No, it is not. I’ll explain next month.