“There were giants in the earth in those days… mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” – Genesis 6:4
The text for today is from the opening chapters of the Bible taken from the Ancient Word which, in the letter, tell of the development of man from his creation to the call of Abraham. Before the development of the natural sciences these chapters were regarded as literally true. With the opening of the Word it can be seen that they are true in a deeper sense than literally. They are Divine allegories. These chapters treat of the rise and fall of two great spiritual dispensations which once took place on this earth. And they contain general truths, truths which must be learned before particular truths can be added. This applies to the whole book of Genesis, which is referred to throughout the Scriptures, Old Testament and New.
“There were giants in the earth in those days.” This verse is often interpreted by people as applying to those days of the past when things were supposed to be a good deal better than they are today; but actually they refer to the closing days of the Most Ancient Church. It was just before the flood. We sometimes speak of the giants of the past as though they were the great ones of the earth, to whom we should look up with veneration, and with whom no one at the present time can be compared. It seems to be a natural tendency with many to think of one’s own time as being inferior to the greater glories of the past – that modern people are of less stature and less worthy than those who have gone before. There have indeed been men who towered above others from time to time in the historical picture – some good and some bad. But spiritual stature is not peculiar to any age.
The giants of Genesis were not such that we should look up to them with veneration and respect. They were very much the opposite. They were like other giants that we have read about in ancient legends and in the fairy tales of our childhood, monsters which inspired fear so that we admired the ones who slew them. In these stories giants have almost always had a bad significance, and when some hero came along and put an end to their existence, we have thought of it as the triumph of innocence over evil and corruption.
Who then were the giants of this ancient story of Genesis, these men of renown, and for what were they renowned? In the Word they are called Nephilim, which is from a Hebrew word meaning “to fall.” They were men who lived in the times after the fall, when we are told that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” a time which culminated in the flood and in their almost complete destruction.
It was in such days that these giants came into being, the offspring of the union of the sons of God with the daughters of men. For we read, “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose,” suggesting in the first place a marriage of great inequalities, bringing forth giant offspring with the hereditary evils of their progenitors. The “sons of God” represent Divine truths, and taking wives of the daughters of men represents the uniting of these truths with worldly human desires and lusts. These Nephilim are said in the writings of the church to signify those who through a persuasion of their own loftiness and preeminence set at naught all things holy and true. These giants are called “mighty men” from their love of self, and “which were of old, men of renown” because this love of self had been growing for a long time.
As there were giants in those days there have been giants since. They are just as prominent in the world today as they were in times gone by, though we need not think of them nor picture them as men of great physical stature. We find them in those places where human passions have got beyond the control of human reason, wherever men proclaim a Divine authority to justify their own desires. So the evil justify their selfish ambitions. The world still suffers from the evils of those who have persuaded themselves and their followers that the power of Divine authority has been vested in them. In their own sight they are giants in the earth, and they are giants in the sight of those who are ready to follow in their ways.
But in the sight of the Lord these giants are seen as monsters, ugly in form as sin is ugly. They are like those men of Babel who also were puffed up in their own imagination, who thought that by building themselves a tower they could exalt themselves to heaven and so gain control of all things, as though physical height could make for spiritual greatness.
The writings tell us, “By the Nephilim are signified persuasions of falsity, or those who from a persuasion of their own height and preeminence made nothing of all that is holy and true.” Such are those who are in the persuasion of their preeminence and wisdom above others. They represent self-love in its worst form, when one in the conceit of his own intelligence shuts God out of his life, when he considers himself the arbiter of Divine revelation and of all things of the religious life, and when the law of the Lord is for him no longer of binding force. Then does he look upon himself as a god. He sets himself up as independent of all Divine control, a giant in the earth, a figure of great magnitude and importance. But in the sight of those who are still, by the light of religion, capable of taking a sane and rational view of life he appears as a monster, a giant in the earth who is a menace to the community.
This is the meaning of the giants in the Genesis allegory. The mind has dimensions as well as the body. When a man excludes God, revelation, and the church from his thinking, he grows mighty in his own conceit. He regards his atheistic bombast as possessing gigantic proportions, and does not know that he is a fool. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” One such wrote, “The time has come when the belief in God is confined to men of small culture, and low mentality.” Yes, evil puffs men up in their own esteem. This is the inevitable result of evil confirmed in the life.
Whenever self-love begins to rule in the affairs of a community, whether in a collective sense, seeking to exert its power for national interests, or whether it expresses itself through the individual merely for personal benefit, it leads to the growth of false and evil things, the decline of the Lord’s kingdom among men, and the destruction of what is good and true.
The first verse of this sixth chapter of Genesis begins, “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them.” Daughters, not sons, were born unto them. The daughters of Zion and Jerusalem so often spoken of in the Word represent genuine affections for goodness and truth, but the daughters of Babylon, Philistia, and Moab symbolize evil affections and lusts.
This is the issue that lies before the world. The giants of self-interest raise their heads all over the world, acknowledging only the strength of material power, recognizing no power that is greater than their own. When this love rules, men cannot even make a success of material progress.
The Nephilim were real people who once lived on the earth and who brought destruction upon their world. So evil had they become that they could not even think what is good and true. We are told in the writings that the Lord by His work of redemption brought into subjection the Nephilim in the spiritual world, who were still from there striving to influence men, and deprived them of the power to bring destruction upon the world again. Yet we should remember that there is that quality of self-love within our own character, which is still actively opposed to the higher purposes of life, and which can be overcome only by the Lord. He effects His work of redemption in us. The power to overcome these giants is not in ourselves but with the Lord alone, as we place our trust in Him and do His commandments. Those of the church should have complete confidence in the power of the Lord to save, always going forward undaunted by the evil forces which threaten. Whether they be foes of our own household or the powers of darkness overshadowing the world and threatening our civilization with destruction, we can meet them in the name of the Lord even as David did when he went forth against Goliath, that last of the giants of the Bible story who was slain by one smooth stone from the brook, one tried truth from the Word of God used boldly and courageously.