In this episode, we once again encounter the Nephilim, the evil demon-human hybrid beings we first met in Genesis 6. Now they resurface as giants inhabiting Canaan, the land Yahweh promised to Israel. Join Tim and Jon as they tackle the complex issues of violent conquest, human and spiritual evil, and divine justice.
In Genesis 3-11, we see a portrait of what happens when a human culture gives itself over to death and practices that lead to death and calls those things good. The people groups who inhabit the promised land are portrayed as these kinds of people—people that are too far gone, like the generation of the flood. However, this is the land that Yahweh’s marked out to be a hub of Eden life for the rest of the nations.
In part one (00:00-14:18), Tim and Jon talk about a second key theme in the first movement of Deuteronomy, giants. We’ve been tracing the theme of listen and love, which is interwoven throughout the first movement alongside frequent mention of giants in the promised land.
These stories are challenging to read because they center around Israel entering the land of Canaan and conquering the people already living there, all at Yahweh’s command. These narratives are disturbingly violent, and it’s important to acknowledge that as we read, while also trying to read sympathetically and understand what the biblical authors intended us to take away from these stories.
In part two (14:18-28:56), Tim and Jon explore the first place Moses mentions giants in Deuteronomy (Deut. 1:20-33). At the end of Deuteronomy 1, Moses refers to a group of people called the “Anakim.” In Numbers 13, the 12 spies sent to explore the promised land identified the Anakim as well as the Nephilim (Num. 13:33; Gen. 6:1-6). The Nephilim were spiritual being-human hybrids, and in addition to being giants, they were wicked and extremely violent. The Anakim who inhabited the land of Canaan were descendants of the Nephilim.
Numbers 13:28 also links the Anakim to Nimrod and the builders of Babylon. In a nutshell, the Anakim were considered “bad guys” in the biblical story, representing the greatest evil of both humans and spiritual beings.
In part three (28:56-45:29), Tim and Jon take a closer look at the storyline of the Nephilim and Anakim throughout the Torah.
We first meet the Nephilim in Genesis 6, where the “sons of elohim” see the beauty of human women and take them for themselves. The offspring of these unsanctioned unions were the Nephilim, giant human-spiritual being hybrids. At this point, the clock starts ticking down toward the great de-creation event in the Torah, the flood.
The flood is God’s response to the violence of the Nephilim and humanity (Gen. 6:5)—an acceleration of what humans have already set in motion. Genesis 1-11 is a narrative of human and spiritual evil and the consequences that follow. And in Deuteronomy, we see this Genesis narrative echoed, as the Canaanites are portrayed as people who have given themselves over to violence and rebellion.
When the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to take possession of it, and he drives away many nations from before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God turns them over to you and you defeat them, you shall utterly destroy them. You shall not make a covenant with them nor be gracious to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them.
Interestingly, the language Moses uses—“utterly destroying” the nations—already seems to be rhetoric because he assumes those people groups will still be around to present the opportunity of covenant forging and intermarriage with Israel.
In part four (45:29-01:11:22), the guys wrap up our conversation by exploring how readers can respond to the narratives of conquest.
Even though there were survivors from these people groups, these stories can be uniquely challenging to read and process because instead of a flood carrying out God’s justice, Yahweh appoints Israel to do so.
The takeaway from texts like this should not be that they justify conquest of other people groups. These stories are, more than anything, an indictment of humans who have allowed themselves to become infected with the power of the snake. We know from the story of Jacob in Genesis that even God’s people can become snake-like. Only Yahweh acts with perfect justice and integrity, and sometimes, to preserve creation, he destroys those who threaten it.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz with Associate Producer Lindsey Ponder. Edited by Dan Gummel, Tyler Bailey, and Frank Garza. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by Hannah Woo.
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