THE SONS OF GOD AND THE DAUGHTERS OF MEN.
From Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis
By Robert Graves and Raphael Patai
Chapter 18 p. 100-107
By the tenth generation, Adam's race had hugely increased. Lacking female company, the angels known as "Sons of God" found wives among the lovely Daughters of Men. The children of their unions would have inherited eternal life from their father, but that God had decreed: "Let not My spirit abide in flesh for ever! Henceforth the years of man are limited to one hundred and twenty."
These new creatures were giants, known as "the Fallen Ones," whose evil ways decided God to wipe from the face of the earth all men and women, with their gigantic corruptors. (Genesis 6:1-7.) 1
The Sons of God were sent down to teach mankind truth and justice; and for three hundred years did indeed teach Cain's son Enoch all the secrets of Heaven and Earth. Later, however, they lusted after mortal women and defiled themselves by sexual intercourse. Enoch has recorded not only their divine instructions, but also their subsequent fall from grace; before the end they were indiscriminately enjoying virgins, matrons, men, and beasts. (Jubilees 4:15, 22; 5:1; Tanhuma Buber, Gen. 24) 2
Some say that Shemhazai and Azael, two angels in God's confidence, asked: "Lord of the Universe, did we not warn You on the Day of Creation that man would prove unworthy of Your world?" God replied: "But if I destroy man, what will become of My world? "They answered: "We shall inhabit it." God answered: "Yet upon descending to earth, will you not sin even worse than man?" They pleaded: "Let us dwell there awhile, and we will sanctify Your name!"
God allowed them to descend, but they were at once overcome by lust for Eve's daughters, Shemhazai begetting on them two monstrous sons named Hiwa and Hiya, each of whom daily ate a thousand camels, a thousand horses and a thousand oxen. Azael also invented the ornaments and cosmetics employed by women to lead men astray. God therefore warned them that He would set loose the Upper Waters, and thus destroy all men and beasts. Shemhazai wept bitterly, fearing for his sons who, thought all enough to escape drowning, would starve to death. (Yalqut Gen. 44; Bereshit Rabbati, 29-30) 3
That night, Hiwa dreamed of a huge rock above the earth, like a table-top, and having a legend inscribed on it which an angel scraped off with a knife, leaving only four letters. Hiya also dreamed: of a fruitful orchard, and of other angels felling it until only a singe three-branched tree remained. They told their dream to Shemhazai, who replied: "Your dream, Hiya, signifies that God's Deluge will destroy all mankind, except Noah and his three sons. Nevertheless, be comforted, for Hiwa's dream signifies that your fame, at least, will never die: whenever Noah's descendants hew stones, quarry rocks or haul boats, they will shout, "Hiwa, Hiya!" in your honour." (Sources as in preceding footnote) 4
Afterwards Shemhazai repented, and set himself in the southern sky, between Heaven and Earth - head, down, feet up, and hangs there to this day: the constellation called Orion by the Greeks. Azael, however, far from repenting, still offers women ornaments and many-colored robes with which to lead men astray. For this reason, on the Day of Atonement, Israel's sins are heaped on the annual scapegoat; it is then thrown over a cliff to Azazel - as some call Azael. (Sources as in preceding footnote) 5
Others say that certain angels asked God's permission to collect sure proof of man's iniquity, and thus assure his punishment. When God agreed, they turned themselves into precious stones, pearls, purple dye, gold and other treasures, which were at once stolen by covetous men. They then took human shape, hoping to teach mankind righteousness. But this assumption of flesh made them subject to human lusts: being seduced by the Daughters of Men, they found themselves chained to Earth, unable to resume their spiritual shapes. (The Clementine Homilies, 8:11-17 (pp.142-45). The Homilies are and early 3rd cent. A.D. Christian tract, written probably in Syria. Cf. also Enoch 6-8; 69; 106, 13f) 6
The Fallen Ones had such huge appetites that God rained manna upon them, of many different flavours, lest they might be tempted to eat flesh, a forbidden diet, and excuse the fault by pleading scar city of corn and pot herbs. Nevertheless, the Fallen Ones rejected God's manna, slaughtered animals for food, and even dined on human flesh, thus fouling the air with sickly vapours. It was then that God decided to cleanse Earth. (Sources as in preceeding footnote) 7
Others say that Shemhazai and Azael were seduced by the demonesses Naamah, Agrat daughter of Mahlat, and Lilith who had once been Adam's spouse. (Zohar Genesis 37a, 55a) 8
In those days only one virgin, Istahar by name, remained chaste. When the sons of God made lecherous demands upon her, she cried: "First lend me your wings!" They assented and she, flying up to Heaven, took sanctuary at the Throne of God, who transformed her into the constellation Virgo - or, some say, the Pleiades. The fallen angels having lost their wings, were stranded on earth until, many generations later, they mounted Jacob's ladder and thus went home again. (Liqqute Midrashim, 156; a somewhatdifferent version in Yalqut Gen. 44) 9
The wise and virtuous Enoch also ascended to Heaven, where he became God's chief counsellor, henceforth known as "Metatron." God set His own crown upon Enoch's head, and gave him seventy-two wings as well as multitudinous eyes. His flesh was transformed into flame, his sinews into fire, his bones into embers, his eyes into torches, his hair into rays of light, and he was surrounded by storm, whirlwind, thunder and lightning. (Sepher Hekhalot, 170-76) 10
Some say that the Sons of God won that name because the divine light out of which God had created their ancestor Samael, Cain's father, shone from their faces. The Daughters of Men, they say, were the children of Seth, whose father was Adam, not an angel; and their faces therefore resembled our own. (Zohar Genesis 37a) 11
Others, however, make the Sons of God pious descendants of Seth, and the Daughters of Men sinful descendants of Cain explaining that when Abel died childless, mankind soon divided into two tribes; namely the Cainites who, apart from Enoch, where wholly evil, and the Sethites who were wholly righteous. These Sethites inhabited a sacred mountain in the far north, near the Cave of Treasures, some take it for Mount Hermon. The Cainites lived apart in a valley to the westward. Adam, on his deathbed, ordered Seth to separate his tribe from the Cainites; and each Sethite patriarch publicly repeated this order, generation after generation. The Sethites were extraordinarily tall, like their ancestor; and by living so close to the Gate of Paradise, won the name "Children of God." (PRE, ch 21 (where mishem shouldbe amended to read miseth) and 22; cf also Gen. Rab. 222; Adambuch, 75,81-86; Adamschriften, 37; Schatzhohle, 10) 12
Many Sethites took celibate vows, following Enoch's example, and led the lives of anchorites. By way of contrast, the Cainites practised unbridled debauchery, each keeping at least two wives: the first to bear children, the second to gratify his lust. The child-bearer lived in poverty and neglect, as thougn a widow; the other was forced to drink a potion that made her barren - after which, decked out like a harlot, she entertained her husband luxuriously. (Adamscriften, 38; cf Gen. Rab. 222-23) 13
It was the Cainites punishment to have a hundred daughters borne them for each son; and this led to such husband-hunger that their women began to raid houses and carry off men. One day it pleased them to seduce them Sethites, after daubing their faces with rouge and powder, their eyes with antimony, and the soles of their feet with scarlet, dyeing their hair, putting on golden earrings, golden anklets, bracelets, and many-colored garments. In their ascent of the holy mountain, they twanged harps, blew trumpets, beat drums, sang, danced, clapped hands; then, having addressed the five hundred and twenty anchorites in cheerful voices, each caught hold of her victim and seduced him. These Sethites, after once succumbing to the Cainites women blandishments, became more unclean than dogs, and utterly forgot God's laws. (Sources as in preceeding footnote, and PRE, ch. 22)
Even the "Sons of Judges" now corrupted the daughters of the poor. Whenever a bride was beautified for the bridegroom, one such would enter the nuptial chamber and enjoy her first. (Targ, and Targ. Yer. ad Gen. 7:2-4; Gen Rab 247-48)
Genun the Canaanite, son of Lamech the Blind, living in the Land of the Slime Pits, was ruled by Azael from his earliest youth, and invented all sorts of musical instruments. When he played these, Azael entered into them too, so that they gave forth seductive tunes entrancing the hearts of all listeners. Genun would assemble companies of musicians, who inflamed one another with music until their lust burned bright like fire, and they lay together promiscuously. He also brewed beer, gathered great crowds in taverns, gave them to drink, and taught them to forge iron swords and spear-points, with which to do murder at random when they were drunk. (Adambuch, 92-93)
Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel told God that such wickedness had never before flourished on earth. God then sent Raphael to bind Azael hand and foot, heaping jagged rocks over him in the dark Cave of Dudael, where he now abides until the Last Days. Gabriel destroyed the Fallen Ones by inciting them to civil war. Michael chained Shemhazai and his fellows in other dark caves for seventy generations. Uriel became the messenger of salvation who visited Noah. (Enoch IX-X; cf. also chapters XI-XV and LXIX; 2 BaruchLVI:11-16; 2 Enoch XVIII:1-6)
1. The explanation of this myth, which has been a stumbling block to theologians, may be the arrival in Palestine of tall, barabarous Hebrew herdsmen early in the second millenium B.C., and their exposure, by marriage, to Asianic civilization. "Sons of El" in this sense would mean the "cattle-owning worshipper of the Semite Bull-god El"; "Daughters of Adam" would mean "women of the soil" (adama), namely, the Goddess worshipping Canaanite agriculturists, notorious for their orgies and premarital prostitution. If so, this historical event has been tangled with the Ugaritic myth how El seduced two mortal women and fathered divine sons on them, namely Shahar ("Dawn") and Shalem ("Perfect"). Shahar appears as a winged deity in Psalm CXXXIX:9, and his son, according to Isaiah XIV:12, was the fallen angel Helel. Unions between gods and mortals, that is to say between kings or queens and commoners, occur frequently in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern myth. Since later Judaism rejected all deities but its own transcendental God, and since He never married or consorted with any female whatsoever, Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai in Genesis Rabba felt obliged to curse all who read "Sons of God" in the Ugartic sense. Clearly, such an interpretation was still current in the second century A.D., and lapsed only when Bene Elohim meant "God" and Judge," the theory being that when a duly appointed magistrate tried a case, the Spirit of El possessed him: "I have said, ye are gods." (Psalm LXXXII:6) 2. This myth is constantly quoted in the Apocrypha, the New Testament, the Church Fathers, and midrashim.
2. Josephus interpreted it as follows: Many angels of God now consorted with women, and begot sons on them who were overbearing and disdainful of every virtue; such confidence had they in their strength. In fact, the deeds that our tradition ascribed to them recall the audacious exploits told by the Greeks of the giants. But Noah urged them to adopt a better frame of mind and amend their ways. These Greek giants were twenty-four violent and lecherous sons of Mother Earth, born at Phlegra in Thrace, and the two Aloeids, all of whom rebelled against Almighty Zeus.
3. Josephus's view, that the Sons of God were angels, survived for several centuries despot Shimon Ben Yohai's curse. As late as the eighth century A.D., Rabbi Eliezer records in a midrash: "The angels who fell from Heaven saw the daughters of Cain perambulating and displaying their secret parts, their eyes painted with antimony in the manner of harlots; and, being seduced, took wives from among them." Rabbi Joshua Ben Qorha, a literalist, was worried by a technical detail: "Is it possible that angels, who are flaming fire, could have performed the sexual act without scorching their brides internally?" He decided that "when these angels fell from Heaven, their strength and stature were reduced to those of mortals, and their fire changed into flesh."
4. Hiwa and Hiya, the names given to giants begotten by Shemhazai and Azael on mortal women, were merely the cries of work-teams engaged in tasks demanding concerted effort. In one Talmudic passage, Babylonian sailors are made to shout as they haul cargo vessels ashore: "Hilni, hiya, hola, w'hilok holya!" The giants' voracious flesh-eating was, however, a habit of El's Hebrew herdsmen, not of the Agricultural Daughters of Adamah; and this anecdote suggests that the myth originated in an community whose diet was severely restricted, like that of Daniel and his three holy companions, to pulses. (Daniel I:12).
5. The names of several fallen angels survive only in careless Greek transcriptions of Hebrew or Aramaic originals, which make their meaning doubtful. But "Azael" does seem to represent "Azazel" ("God strengthens"). Dudaelis sometimes translated "God's cauldron," but it is more likely to be a fantastic modification of Beth Hadudo (M. Yoma, VI:8) - now Harradan, three miles to the south-east of Jerusalem, the Judaean desert cliff from which "the scapegoat for Azazel" fell yearly to its death on the Day of Atonement. (Leviticus XVI:8-10). This Goat was believed to takeaway Israel's sins and transfer them to their instigator, the fallen angel Azazel, who lay imprisoned under a pile of rocks at the cliff-foot. The sacrifice did not therefore rank as one offered to demons, like those which Leviticus XVII:7 prohibits.
6. The Mount of God, where certain pious Sethites lived near the "Cave of Treasure," at the Gates of Paradise, will have been El's holy Mount Saphon, not Hermon.
7. Istahar's story is borrowed partly from the Greek writer Aratus (early third century B.C.). He tells how Justice, a daughter of Dawn, ruled mankind virtuously in the Golden Age; but when the Silver and Bronze ages brought greed and slaughter among them, she exclaimed: "Alas, for this evil race!" and mounted into Heaven, where she became the constellation Virgo. The rest of this story is borrowed from Apollodorus's account of Orion's attempt on the seven virgin Pleiadies, daughters of Atlas and Pleione, who escaped his embraces transformed into stars. "Istahar," however, is the Babylonian Goddess Ishtar, sometimes identified with Virgo. Popular Egyptian belief identified Orion, the constellation which became Shemhazai, with the souls of Osiris.
8. The right claimed by certain "sons of judges" to take the maiden heads of poor men's brides is, apparently, the ancient and well-known jus primae noctis which, as the droit de cuissage, was still reputedly exercised by feudal lords in Europe during the Middle Ages (see 36:4). Yet at a time when the Sons of God were regarded as divine beings, this story may have referred to a custom prevalent in the Eastern Mediterranean: a girl's maidenhead was ritually broken by "equitation" of a priapic statue. A similar practice obtained among Byzantine hippodrome-performers as late as Justinian's reign, and is hinted at in records of the medieval English witch cult.
9. Many details of the Genun story, taken from the fifth-century A.D. Ethiopian Book of Adam, are paralleled in midrashic writings. Although Genun's name suggests "Kenan," who appears in Genesis V:9 as the son of Enoch, he is a composite Kenite character: the invention of musical instruments being attributed in Genesis to Jubal, and of edged iron blades to his brother Tubal Cain. Genun was said to occupy "the Land of the Slime Pits," namely the southern shores of the Dead Sea (Genesis XIV:10), doubtless because the evil cityof Sodom stood there (see 32:6).
10. Enoch ("Instructor")won his immense reputation from the apocalyptic and once canonical Book of Enoch, compiled in the first century B.C. It is an ecstatic elaboration of Genesis V:22: "And Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he begat Methuselah." Later Hebrew myth makes him God's recording angel and counsellor, also patron of all children who study the Torah. Metatron is a Hebrew corruption of either the Greek "metadromos, ""he who pursues with a vengeance," or of "meta ton thronon", "nearest to the Divine Throne."
11. The Anakim may have been Mycenaean Greek colonists, belonging to the "Sea Peoples" confederation which caused Egypt such trouble in the fourteenth century B.C. Greek mythographers told of a Giant Anax ("king"), son of Heaven and Mother Earth, who ruled Anactoria (Miletus) in Asia Minor. According to Appollodorus, the disinterred skeleton of Asterius ("starry"), Anax's successor, measured ten cubits. Akakes, the plural of Nanx, was an epithet of the Greek gods in general. Talmudic commentators characteristically make the Anakim three thousand cubits tall.
12. Megalithic monuments, found by the Hebrews on their arrival in Canaan, will have encouraged legends about giants; as in Greece, where the monstrous man-eating Cyclopes were said by story-tellers ignorant of ramps, levers and other Mycenaean engineering devices, to have lifted single- handed the huge blocks of stone that form the walls of Tiryns, Mycenae and other ancient cities.
13. The Nephilim ("Fallen Ones") bore many other tribal names, such as Emim ("Terrors"), Repha'im ("Weakeners"), Gibborim ("Giant Heroes"), Zamzummim ("Acheivers"), Anakim ("Long-necked" or "Wearers of Necklaces"), Awwim ("Devastators" or "Serpents"). One of the Nephilim named Arba is said to have built the city of Hebron, called "Kiriath-Arba" after him, and become the father of Anak whose three sons, Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, were later expelled by Joshua'scomrade Caleb. Since, however, arba means "four" in Hebrew, Kiriath-Arbamay have originally have meant "City of Four," a reference toits four quarters mythically connected with the Anakite clans: Anak himself and his "sons" Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai.