Question: "What is the Book of Giants?"
Answer: The Book of Giants is a pseudepigraphal book set in the antediluvian time; its characters include Enoch and several giants, and the plot deals with the sinful state of the world before the flood. The Book of Giants was considered official scripture in Manichaeism, but it is not God’s inspired Word. Although it draws from the canonical book of Genesis, the Book of Giants is not inerrant, nor is it reliable history.
The Book of Giants has similar content to another pseudepigraphal Jewish book called 1 Enoch, which probably predates it. Fragments of an Aramaic copy of the Book of Giants were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, meaning that the book is a bona fide ancient document, having been composed before the second century BC. Portions of the Book of Giants have been found in the Middle Persian, Old Turkic, Parthian, and other languages.
The Book of Giants gives a fictional backstory for the biblical Nephilim by tying them to Enoch, Noah’s great-grandfather. Genesis 6:4 says, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” There’s plenty that the Bible does not tell us about the Nephilim and Enoch. Thus, the doorway for speculation (and imagination) is wide open.
According to the Book of Giants, certain angelic beings called Watchmen descended to earth and produced the Nephilim through human women. These offspring were giants who behaved monstrously, killing many humans and also destroying much plant, animal, and sea life. In the story, the giants have disturbing dreams that warn of the coming flood and their own demise, and one of them, a giant named Mahaway, seeks the counsel of Enoch. Enoch warns the giants and a Watcher named Semihaza to repent because the archangel Raphael has taken notice of their misdeeds and their destruction is imminent. In the end, the giants, the Nephilim, and a multitude of demons meet a violent fate. Depending on what version of the Book of Giants is being read, the Watchers are either killed or bound by four angels in a dark prison.
Elements of the Book of Giants found their way into the 2014 movie Noah, directed by Darren Aronofsky. The film portrays Watchers, environmental destruction, and widespread violence, but, as its own director said, the film is “the least biblical biblical film ever made.”
The general public, who, by and large, are not biblically literate, too frequently assume that entertainment products such as the film Noah relate true biblical narratives. But this is rarely the case with mainstream studio releases, and it would be helpful to think of the Book of Giants in the same way. It’s ancient, but it’s not a lot different from a contemporary movie that takes liberties with the Bible.
There are scores of ancient documents similar to the Book of Giants that have the “feel” of biblical books but do not make the cut as true history or holy canon. One reason they have lasted so long is that they appropriate the Bible’s gravitas. Documents such as the Book of Giants steal from the Bible’s plot or sometimes use biblical characters as actors to create what we’d call today historical fiction.
Works such as the Book of Giants are imaginative, and they may help us understand ancient cultures and languages. But if God wanted us to know more about the Nephilim and the giants that lived before the flood, He would have given us more information about them in His Word.