I have been enthralled by the book series the Chronicles of the Nephilim by Brian Godawa. Abraham Allegiant has just been released as book four in the series. Only a few chapters in and I already had some questions for Brian.
Brian, I recently asked a pastor with a degree in Hebrew how many giants are mentioned in the Bible. He quickly answered there was only one, Goliath. You are on book four in a series that proposes the idea that the Old Testament is full of giants, you can’t be getting that from the Bible, right?
I too was once woefully ignorant of all things Nephilim in the Bible. But as I studied the issue, I was blown away by how many of these giants are hiding in plain sight in the text. I think it’s because their identities are sometimes hidden behind clan names such as Rephaim, Anakim, Emim, and Zuzim, that are not always explained as giant clans in every text. So you have to do word searches to find out more about them. As a matter of fact, in the appendix of my first novel, Noah Primeval, I listed out most all the explicit mentions of giants in the Bible. Here is just a summary: There are at least fifteen towns or areas such as Bashan and the Valley of the Rephaim that are described as hosting giants; there are at least eleven clans or people groups named as being all giants or having giants, including the Anakim, the Rephaim, and the Emim. Five additional peoples such as the Amorites, Amalekites, and Hivites are said to include giants. Eleven giants other than Goliath are noted by name as giant warriors killed by Israel, including Og of Bashan and Arba, father of Anak. If that pastor read his Bible more closely, he would have found that Goliath had a giant brother, and maybe a couple others (1 Chron 20:5)! In Joshua 11:21-22, Joshua indicates his military campaign to explicitly wipe out the Anakim giants of the hill country in Canaan. All the cities that were under the special “ban” that was devoted to total destruction were connected in the Bible to giants. There is something very deliberate going on here in God’s strategy, and it’s connected to giants.
I thought I heard you mention in an interview that the genre you would classify this is “Theologically accurate Biblical fantasy.” Is that a good fit?
I don’t like the words “theologically accurate,” it reminds me of “politically incorrect” which assumes a superior position on the part of those who are in power to define what is acceptable. I would call it a “theological fantasy” or a “Biblical fantasy.” And then I explain that the genre of fantasy is not as much about getting “historic facts” absolutely accurate as it is about communicating a theological vision of the world. In that sense, I claim Chronicles of the Nephilim are very true to the Bible. But what I actually do is not much different than what the Bible does. I use some of the Biblical imagery such as Leviathan the many-headed sea dragon of chaos and I literalize it in the story so that it is a real creature. This is what God is doing when he says that he “crushed the heads of Leviathan” when he divided the Red Sea at the Exodus to make a way for them into a covenanted land. The image of gods subduing the sea dragon of chaos was a common ancient Near Eastern mythopoeic way of saying their god pushed back the chaos of the world and established his covenanted order or mighty kingdom.
So what is the plot of Abraham Allegiant?
Abraham Allegiant starts where Gilgamesh Immortal left off. The giant king Nimrod builds his city of Babylon along with a temple-tower in order to become world potentate. It shows the steps of tyrannical empire that continue to plague humanity even after God’s judgment of the Deluge. Into this picture comes Abram, called by God to be the father of many nations who will inherit the land of Canaan and will birth many kings. Since Nimrod is world emperor, this does not sit well him and he seeks to kill Abram. But Abram is protected by God. When God judges Nimrod by confusing the languages of people and dispersing them to the ends of the earth, Nimrod loses his kingdom and sets out on a lifelong quest to find Abram and kill him to thwart God’s plans for a seedline of God’s people. But Nimrod isn’t the only one working against God. Away in the land of Canaan, the goddess Ashtart is breeding the seed of the Serpent through the bloodline of the cursed son of Noah, Canaan. And she’s doing it in Sodom and Gomorrah. You think you know how the story ends. But there’s more to it than you’ve ever realized as these three will come crashing into one another as the War of the Seed rises.
Was Abram really a warrior?
Many people think of Abram as a nomadic shepherd. So they see him as a rather sedentary or peaceful holy man. But in Genesis 14, we read a story about how Abram led 318 of his household trained warriors to capture his nephew Lot from the clutches of an army of men thousands strong. That’s no pastoral pacifist. That’s a warrior. Since the Bible only tells snippets of people’s lives, we don’t always know the whole story. But that snippet of Genesis 14 reveals an Abram that was obviously more than a peaceful shepherd.
The intro of the new book says we need to pay special attention to names and name changes, why is that important?
The idea of individuals changing their names is nothing new in the ancient world. We know that Abram’s name which meant “exalted father” was changed to Abraham to mean “father of many nations” (Gen 17:5) based on the historical events of God’s covenant with him. Later in the Bible, Jacob (“usurper”) was changed to Israel (“struggles with God”) as the ancestor of the people of God. Even ancient gods changed names based on locales. Inanna of Sumer became Ishtar of Babylonia, and then Ashtart of Canaan. Ninurta of Sumer was probably the basis for Marduk of Babylon, and then Ba’al of Canaan.
While it is a cardinal rule not to change a character’s names in a modern story in order to avoid confusion, I have utilized this technique of changing names and identities as a foundational element in the Chronicles of the Nephilim storyline in order to incarnate the living cultural zeitgeist of the ancient world. Names were more than mere shallow title references to a person; they were believed to incarnate the person’s very essence or identity, as well as mark significant moments in their lives.
You really can’t enjoy the story if you don’t buy into your beliefs about what was really going on. What do you hope for readers to get out of this series, enjoyment of a good read or questioning what they really know about the Bible?
Well, as I said, if you see it as a theological novel, you don’t have to believe in everything that happens. You can appreciate the imagination for its theological point about the cosmic battle between the Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman, that God prophesied in Genesis 3:15. Essentially, Chronicles of the Nephilim is about that cosmic battle between the forces of Evil who seek to destroy God’s chosen messianic lineage through which God will bring redemption for all mankind. And there’s a lot of great action for guys and romance for girls. I wrote it so it would read like you were watching a movie. That’s why the tagline for the series, “Giants, Gods, Monsters, & Men” fits it well.
Why do you use Jewish legends and apocryphal stories to tell the story of Abram?
The Bible only starts with Abram’s story when he’s about fifty years old. Then it makes a few jumps from age 75 to age 100 before he has Isaac that leads into Jacob and the creation of the Hebrew nation. That’s fifty years of Abram’s life we know nothing about, and then another fifty about which we know almost nothing. Ancient Jewish legends try to fill in those intervening years in a way that makes the sparse Biblical information make sense. It’s like connecting the dots. So while I don’t consider these apocryphal stories to be Scriptural, they are a rich heritage of tradition from which to draw fascinating stories of people of faith. I kind of see it like my way of showing respect to the great storytellers of old by retelling their stories with freshness, while drawing from their imaginative resources.
Were there really giants and fallen angels in Abram’s story in the Bible?
Yes, there were giants in Abram’s story. When the Bible talks about the four kings of Mesopotamia coming into Canaan on a campaign of destruction that ends with plundering Sodom and Gomorrah, it tells of the cities they conquered on their way as belonging to those of giants. It’s almost as if these Mesopotamian kings knew they had to get rid of the giants if they wanted to secure the King’s Highway along which they engaged in international trade.
Also, when Israel later comes into the Promised Land under Joshua, they find that the giant “Sons of Anak” or “Anakim” fill the land. Then, elsewhere in Joshua we read that Arba was the father of Anak and was the greatest of those giants. Since this all took place in the past, and there was no mention of the Anakim during Abram’s time or any other, I figured that Arba was probably just beginning his kingdom during Abram’s time and had his son Anak shortly after. The Bible says that it took about four hundred years from the time of Abraham’s covenant to the time of Israel taking Canaan. So that’s four long generations with which Arba’s giant descendants could populate the land and thus their infestation when Joshua arrives.
Who was Nimrod in history?
Nobody really knows who Nimrod really was. There are as many interpretations as there are scholars. And those interpretations run the gamut of over fifteen hundred years of difference. So some think he was Gilgamesh during the third millennium, some say he was Tikulti Ninurta who reigned fifteen hundred years later. Some even say he has no known historical identity. The problem is that the Hebrew word for Nimrod means “to rebel,” so it is most likely a demonizing nickname rather than his real name. This is exactly what the Hebrew writers did with the name Babel, which means “confusion”, rather than the original name Babylon, which means “gateway of the gods.” There are a lot of legends that surround Nimrod, but the most influential of them come from Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons. Unfortunately, Hislop’s storytelling was made up in his own head in order to justify his anti-Catholic polemic in the book. The ancient Jewish source that I drew from was the book of Jasher, a book that some believe was one of the sources of the Bible writer’s history.
So sit back and enjoy Abraham Covenant, about the forefather and patriarch you thought you knew.
Brian Godawa is an author and international speaker on art, movies, worldviews, and faith. Brian is also an award-winning screenwriter, his first feature film was To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland. Find out more about Brian and the Chronicles of the Nephilim at godawa.com.