The Bible Says What: ‘Giants and fallen angels are real’
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here
Analysis

The Bible Says What: ‘Giants and fallen angels are real’

 Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild looks at a controversial issue in Jewish texts and applies a progressive response

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

Early in the book of Genesis, God sees that the earth has become corrupted and violent and tells Noah it must be destroyed: only Noah and his family will survive the flood that is to come. 

It is a strange and frightening story. The verses preceding it may be less well known, but are infinitely more mysterious and bizarre. 

“The Nephilim were 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 were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown”. 

Who were these “Nephilim”? They appear three times in the Bible: When the spies report back to Moses, they say: “And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” and also in Ezekiel: “They lie with the warriors, the Nephilim of old, who descended to Sheol with their weapons of war.” 

Nephilim is translated by some as “fallen” or “causing others to fall”;  it is also understood in context to mean “giants” and “warriors”.  They appear to be ancient,  maybe even semi-divine figures, mythic and terrifying. Are they in some way connected with the flood God is about to bring to cleanse the earth? How is it they clearly survive it? Are they angelic? Heroic? Sinful? A remnant of a previous creation? The questions pile up and tantalise us.

The Bible is never a book of answers. Instead, its texts contain allusions encouraging us to understand we live in a complex world we cannot fully comprehend, that time and space are fluid and mystery is normal and expected.  

  •  Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild has been a community rabbi in south London for 30 years
Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments