first had some connexion with the upper regions, for the Apsarasas dwell in the sky, though often visiting the earth, and Ishtar was a goddess. The two brothers in the Hindu tale were at first on the earth, though they ultimately gained authority over heaven. In this at first sight they differ from the angels who came down from heaven, according to the Jewish and the Muhammadan fables. But the difference is slight even in this matter, since the Hindu myth represents the brothers as descended from a goddess, Diti by name, who was also mother of the Maruts or storm-gods. The resemblance between these various legends is therefore very striking.

We can hardly, however, suppose that the different forms of the story current among all these different nations were all derived from one and the same origin. The Jews, doubtless, borrowed the tale, in part at least, especially the name of Ishtar or Esther and certain other details, from the Babylonians, who had learnt it from the still more ancient Accadians. Forgetting its heathen source, the Talmud admitted the tale, and on the authority of the Jews it was received into the Qur'an and the Traditions of the Muslims.

If we further inquire how it was that the Jews accepted the legend, the answer is that they did so through mistaking the meaning of one Hebrew word in the Book of Genesis. The word Nephilim, which occurs in the passage Gen.


Gen. vi. 1-4, was supposed to be derived from the verb naphal "to fall." Hence Jonathan ben Uzziel in his Targum took it to mean "fallen angels," and doubtless in doing so he was adopting the then current etymology of the word. In order to account for the etymology the story was in part invented, in part (as we have seen) borrowed from Babylonian mythology by the ignorant Jews, much in the same way that, as we have previously pointed out, a false etymology of Ur gave rise to the story of Abraham's deliverance from "the furnace of fire of the Chaldees". Hence Jonathan in his comment on Gen. vi. 4 explains Nephilim by saying, "Shemhazai and 'Uzziel: they fell from Heaven and were on the earth in those days." The myth in the Midrash Yalkut already quoted arose from this blunder.

Yet, even accepting the supposed derivation of Nephilim from the verb meaning "to fall," it was not necessary to explain the origin of the name in such a way. The Targum of Onkelos acts much more wisely by understanding the Nephilim to have been so called because they were men who used to fall violently on the helpless and oppress them. Hence this Targum translates the word by one which means "violent men" or oppressors 1.

1 It is interesting to note that the Samaritan Targum to the Pentateuch (published by Dr. Adolf Brüll, Frankfurt, 1875) practically gives the same explanation. It paraphrases "sons of God" by "sons of the governors." The original runs thus