Friday, September 4, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- They "Might" be Giants

Your assignment for this week was to read Genesis 6:1-8, but I also wanted you to read Numbers 13, especially verses 22 and 33; Deuteronomy 2:11, 20-21; Deuteronomy 3:11, Deuteronomy 9:2, and Deuteronomy 14:33.
First, the N’filim “were in the earth” at the time that the sons of lords were marrying the daughters of men.
Weren’t they the sons of gods?
This is an urban legend that ignores Jewish culture.  Jewish culture only has one Gd.  Everybody else are nobles, lords, masters, etc.  In Exodus 4:16 Gd tells Moshe that Aharon will be his mouth and Moshe will be Aharon’s master.  It uses elohim just like Genesis 6:2 which refers to the sons of masters.  Judaism rejects the idea of “sons of the gods.”
This is how urban legends work!  Yes, exclamation point.  People latch onto an idea that excites them!  And then they spread it.  But the exciting idea isn’t true to its source, and that lack of faithfulness gets exaggerated over time until it’s an absolute falsehood.  Judaism rejects the idea of “sons of the gods.”  Claiming that Genesis means “sons of gods” is one of those “quoting out of cultural context” fallacies I talked about a long time ago.
Second, Numbers 13:33 says that ten of the Israelites in the reconnaissance team claimed they saw the N’filim there and felt like insects compared to them.  Once again, this is people exaggerating.  In the verses immediately before this, the same men were praising the land but now they are making a power play, not a physical size comparison.
Those are the only verses that refer to the N’filim.
Then people compare them to Numbers 13:22 which talks about Sheshai, Talmai, and Achiman, and Deuteronomy 1:28 which says that these three men were “sons of Anaq”, and the rest of the verses in Deuteronomy that call the Anaqim great and mighty, and they assume that “great” means they were giants.  That isn’t true.  It means that the kingdom of the Anaqim was large and that they had the numbers and weapons to defend it, not necessarily that they were bigger than normal humans. 
Then they look at verses in Deuteronomy about great and mighty nations, among whom are the R’faim. 
And finally they look at Deuteronomy 3:11 which talks about Og king of Bashan, “last of the R’faim”, and his 9 cubit (13.5 feet) iron network “bed,” and assume that a big bed means a giant man, and then they reason backwards that all the others were also giants.
The problem is that in old times a mitah, (bed), was often the only place in a house that could be used as a seat. Their houses had a floorspace about as big as one room in your house.  Even those “shipping container” apartments that people live in now are bigger than a house in ancient times. 
So everybody sat on the mitah at dinner time, kind of like how the Greeks and Romans did it.  It had to be 9 feet long to have room for the king’s relatives.  What’s more, when his council met, they sat on the mitah too.  Think of it like your living room couch, not like the bed you sleep in. Then you won’t be so surprised that it was 9 feet long.

I don’t know why Og’s “bed” was made of iron, but that’s for later.  For now, go back to the Lemekh story, Genesis 4:18-24.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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